WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Troops thought they would be headed home from WWII in no time after two atomic bombs were dropped.
They just knew Japan would surrender, but instead, they were notified the war was on again.
One man who was on the last bombing mission of the entire war shared his story with KSN.
Marvin Martin was a radar observer and knew he would be directing the plane during the last bombing, but what he didn’t know was there was an effort going on to overthrow the Emperor of Japan, and keep the war alive.
“I went overseas at 19,” WWII Veteran Marvin Martin said.
Years after the war, Martin took his old diary and documented what it was really like in war.
“World War II changed all our lives,” Martin said.
You’ll find a picture of his crew on the back cover of his book.
“There are no great men, they are just ordinary men, called upon by circumstances to do great things,” Martin said.
Many of their B-29 missions took off from a runway in Guam.
He said there was a point in the runway they called the ‘point of no return’, where pilots had to take flight or bailout of the attempt.
“They’d have an occasion where somebody, instead of being airborne, it just crashed, with a full bomb load and full of fuel,” Martin said.
Martin said the crew knew what would happen, if they didn’t get lift off the cliff.
“It obviously a pretty big blaze,” Martin said. “It was a nasty situation, so everybody had kind of a mental picture of what was possible.”
Martin said the guys thought their final runs were done, so there was a lot of celebrating going on.
“Maybe one or two crews had to abort, because they were celebrating too much,” Martin said. “That was unofficial, but I suspected that.”
He’s talking about the mission, the 315th Bomb Group got urgent orders for.
Once they were given those orders, they spent quite a bit of time sitting right off the runway.
“It got pretty uncomfortable in that heat, and then they finally said, probably, you’ll get off but you won’t reach the target,” Martin said.
The target was Akita, Japan’s last oil refinery.
“When we went to briefing, they told us we were not going to have extra fuel and we were going to have a full bomb load,” Martin said.
The mission was 4,000 miles, nonstop.
“Tonight is the night we go on the longest bombing range, ever conceived by man,” Martin said.
Akita hadn’t been hit before, because it was so far North.
“We were stripped down, in order to be able to fly further, so we had no armament,” Martin said.
There was a tail gunner on the crew.
“Our enemy really was not enemy fighters by the end of the war, there weren’t that many enemy fighters,” Martin said.
Martin said they had bigger concerns.
“Our problem was distance and ocean, and malfunctioning engines, and the fact that we were a bunch of kids who didn’t know an awful lot,” Martin said.
The guys in the back were called scanners.
“One of the things they were watching for was whether or not the engines were on fire,” Martin said.
Martin said meanwhile they had no idea Japanese rebels were staging a coup.
He said he later learned, Japanese Emperor Hirohito had recorded a record, to announce the end of the war.
Young rebels surrounded the Emperor’s Palace, in a desperate push to find that record and destroy it, so it would never broadcast to the entire nation, that Japan was surrendering.
“So what you are doing, has an effect someplace else, that is very dramatic and you don’t even know it,” Martin said.
The power of 127 aircraft had Japanese leaders fearful of a third atomic bomb, so they called for a blackout in Tokyo.
Martin said that disrupted the rebels plans, and more than likely saved millions of lives.
“Coming home, we heard the big news, after 3.5 years the war is finally over,” Martin said.
When they finally got word of the surrender, Martin said the radio operator jumped from his chair.
“For us it was just overwhelming, so we were hugging each other and so forth,” Martin said.
He said the celebration was so big, the men were grounded for days.
He said they knew the long journey ahead would finally take them home.
“It took months to bring millions of men back from the United States,” Martin said.
Martin said the men stayed busy with school in the meantime, and that’s when he said he learned Spanish and how type.
The troops had a little fun too.
He said they even convinced the parachute department to make a boat sail, so they could enjoy days at Tuman Bay.
“I got a lot more from the military than they got from me,” Martin said.
He said after the war was over, they also took supplies to those who had been held as prisoners of war.
“That was one of the most horrific experiences of the war to me, was to see the guys who had been prisoners for three or four years,” Martin said.
Martin says he’s grateful it was all part of his journey.
“I wouldn’t part with it for a million dollars, I wouldn’t go through it again for another million,” Martin said.
To help others understand what the Greatest generation endured, he continues to share, each page signed from ‘Grandpa with Love.’
The painting on the front of the first book Martin crafted was painted by Russ Brown. He was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and later became a painter.
Martin has already started on his seventh book.
He said it was actually a book he saw in the book store, that helped him learn about the story behind what was his final mission, he said that was fifty years after they returned from WWII.